Hurricane Floyd's fury bypassed Loudoun County. Many volunteer fire and rescue stations in the area spent the day waiting and ready to respond at the first calls of disasters but got few--and in some cases, none related to the weather.
In Philomont, a handful of volunteers and emergency medics from the local fire department drank coffee, ate cinnamon buns and chatted about the storm's path--well east of Loudoun--as they watched passersby outside the windows of the Philomont Country Store and listened to radio reports.
The 31-member volunteer fire department held an emergency meeting Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning had four generators, 10 chain saws, three basement pumps, hundreds of yards of rope, a small rubber boat, a half-dozen four-wheel drive trucks and at least 20 men standing by.
"We're all ready to roll," said Philomont Fire Chief Stanley Lickey, 64, as he cooked steak-and-cheese sandwiches for the group. "But we ain't turned a wheel."
For grocery clerks and managers, their big rush was Wednesday, as shoppers snatched up milk, bread, flashlights and batteries. They spent Thursday recovering, straightening out disheveled stands and restocking.
"You can tell they've been through here," an employee at the Leesburg Giant said as he pointed to an almost empty stand that once was full of umbrellas. "It was pretty ugly."
For most other retailers, it was business as usual. But some pizza delivery and movie rental stores said they had seen more customers than usual for a weekday, as many parents tried to entertain kids who had the day off from school.
"This was a treat to break up the day," Kristine Gardner said as she sat with her two young boys and ate doughnuts at the Dunkin' Donuts in Leesburg on Route 7 east. "Maybe they could have had school, but I guess overreacting is perhaps better than underreacting."
Her 4-year-old son, Noah, quickly added: "I'm bored, and it's raining outside."
Others were content to spend the rainy day catching up on homework and relaxing.
"We used to live in Florida and we had days off from hurricanes, but this is our first one here," said Michael Kovacs, 13, as he sat with his mother in the doughnut shop. Michael, an eighth-grader at Harper Park Middle School, said he was relieved to have the day off to study for quizzes in his Spanish, algebra and social studies classes.
At a video store in Hamilton along Route 7 west, parents with youngsters wearing rain coats and boots trudged through the store's picked-over racks of movies.
"They should have had school today for at least part of the day," Cynthia Dettmer said as she and her daughter Samantha debated whether to get a comedy or a drama. "This is nothing. We're just hanging out, reading books and being lazy."
Others were undaunted by the rain, and some enjoyed it.
Anita Welch, a golf course design consultant from Atlanta, rushed her rented Saturn to Whites Ferry en route to Poolesville for a marketing meeting at a golf club.
"My plane was late last night because the Richmond airport was closed," she said as she sat in her car on the five-minute ferry ride across the Potomac River. "In my business, these last two hurricanes have been wonderful. The grass at the clubs has gone from dry and brown to green and growing. We still need one more hurricane with lots of rain to come through to catch up."
A few minutes later, James McDonald stood outside his pickup on the ferry as it crossed the river. His rain gear: red lifeguard shorts and a white T-shirt.
"The rain doesn't change a thing for me," said McDonald, 30, who was heading from his girlfriend's house in Gaithersburg to his job as a lifeguard at an indoor hotel pool near Dulles International Airport. "I've got a party of six French tourists coming in this afternoon for a swim."